It’s the last weekend of summer (the season officially cedes to fall next Wednesday). Give it a fitting sendoff in Wilmington by tubing 900 (or maybe 1,000) feet through downtown; by celebrating the Catawba River at Lake James State Park; or by checking out the last in cool outdoor gear in Asheville.
A classic paddle adventure at the coast, a weather reprieve on hiking in the Piedmont and everything under the sun — which will be shining bright — at the Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville: get out and celebrate your freedom this weekend.
The three-day Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer season. Kick it off early at the coast with a paddle down the Black River; kick it off with a rare, on-the-water look at a millpond; kick it off with three days of adventure kicks in Asheville. All are guaranteed to make it a memorable weekend.
This weekend offers a reprieve from the recent run of summerlike weather. With highs no higher than 75 forecast statewide, the weather should be good for just about any pursuit, from birding at the coast, to hiking in the Piedmont to ride in the mountains.
Late last week I had a great idea. If you’re planning a trip to the mountains to catch the fall color, you check out the Weekly Fall Forecast and Color Report issued by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. There, you can find updated reports from throughout the mountains about what colors are popping where.
But what if you don’t have time to drive to the mountains? Or what about when the season has peaked there and is blooming closer to home (assuming that home is in the Piedmont)?
Why not do a similar report for the Piedmont? I thought. I could do it based on reports from the dozen or so state parks, recreation areas and natural areas spread throughout the Piedmont. What brilliant idea!
Apparently the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development thought so, too, because they’re already doing it.
From this week’s report, for instance, we learn that as of Monday, “you can see a small change in color with yellows being the most predominant” at Raven Rock State Park near Lillington. And as of Wednesday at Falls Lake State Recreation Area in the Triangle, “Hickories are a nice golden yellow, and sweetgums and poplars continue to turn yellow as their leaves fall. The oaks and maples are still holding onto their green colors but should start to transition soon.” Other reporting stations since Oct. 1 include Haw River State Natural Area, Pilot Mountain State Park, Crowders Mountain State Park, Hanging Rock State Park, Mayo River State Park, Kerr Lake State Recreation Area, Eno River State Park and Lake Norman State Park.
Personally, within the last week and a half I’ve seen the dogwoods and sourwoods add to the tableau at Eno River, Falls Lake and Umstead State Park with flashes of red and maroon. Color may not be close to peaking in the Piedmont, but it’s certainly starting to show. And based on the forecast for next week, there could be a significant uptick in color next weekend: temperatures are expected to cool significantly, with overnight lows dipping into the 30s. Cold snaps are one event that can significantly accelerate fall’s color display.